9 February 2017

Congress Takes Notice of Scientific Integrity

Posted by Caitlyn Camacho

Editor’s Note: This blog post was cross-posted from the Bridge, an AGU blog on science and policy.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and 26 other Senators recently introduced S.338, legislation that aims to promote and protect scientific integrity. The bill contains language that would require the Directors of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish policies to protect scientists and the scientific endeavor, including preventing the intentional and unintentional tampering of data and safeguarding open communication of scientific findings from federally funded research. AGU appreciates the leadership of these members of Congress and their willingness to act to protect science and the rights of scientists.

In light of recent reports that raise questions regarding scientific integrity at federal agencies and potential barriers to open communication of scientific information, a strong commitment to uphold the principles of the scientific enterprise is appreciated. Together with these Senators and many other members of Congress, AGU shares the same values regarding the importance of scientific integrity.

Last month, AGU sent letters to federal science agencies expressing its concerns over those reports. The letters stated how such actions contradict AGU’s principles and the principles of the scientific community. AGU firmly holds that it is important that the scientific process is unimpeded by political or legal processes.

The foundation of science is rooted in open and healthy debate. To ensure scientific integrity, scientists must be allowed to:

  • share their findings through publications and associated communications;
  • work through questions and scrutiny through the gold-standard peer-review process;
  • not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for sharing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial; and
  • be given the necessary time to discuss and analyze methodology, interpretations of data, and findings as part of the daily scientific discourse.

This level of transparency in science is a key tenant of the scientific process. Except in the case of proprietary information or constraints arising from national security, scientists must be permitted to present their results to the scientific community, policy makers, the media, and the public without censorship, intimidation, or political interference.

While mistakes can and do happen in science, the scientific community has processes in place to ensure that these mistakes are vetted and corrected based on current understandings.

Moving forward, AGU will continue to speak out about the importance of scientific integrity. We reaffirm our commitment to our members and the broader scientific community to promote the principles of scientific integrity. We will continue to engage policy-makers on this issue to ensure the advancement of science and the protection of our scientists.

You can share our letter and your concerns with your lawmakers through our Policy Action Center.  If you have comments or ideas about what should be included as part of scientific integrity, please email sciencepolicy@agu.org.